We want school children to consume healthy snacks every day so that they can develop healthy eating habits.

World Food Programme
SNV Netherlands


Getting school children to snack healthier

Cambodia is at a nutritional crossroads. While under-nutrition continues to be an issue in many areas, cheap, flavorsome, and often unhealthy foods are more accessible, especially for school children. Beyond nutrition delivery and awareness in schools, snacking was identified as a key opportunity to shift the behaviors of school children, and complement the existing school feeding programme. Can young school children be motivated to choose a healthy snack over an unhealthy snack?

17 Triggers spent a week in Kampong Thom province with primary school children, teachers, vendors, parents, and other caregivers. A breakthrough moment was the realization that 95% of students are given pocket money to buy snacks from nearby vendors during the day. Most vendors stocked snacks of poor nutritious value, and only a few carried fruit or other healthy options. A clear opportunity for influence.

Food vendors believed that sweet potatoes, bananas, and boiled eggs would not be attractive to children and therefore would not be as profitable to sell as processed, unhealthy snacks.

The daily routine is for children to rush to school vendors to buy snacks.

Healthy snacks can be desirable

Our core assumption was that school children would actually choose healthy snacks if there were more healthy options available, and if they were presented in a more desirable way. During an eight-week sprint, multiple prototypes were tested before arriving at a two-pronged approach for creating behavior change among both students and vendors. Our team worked with a group of vendors and convinced them to include a ‘Healthy Bundle’ (of three healthy snacks) for one week as part of their offering.

Using card sort to see what children believe are healthy vs unhealthy snacks.

To stimulate demand we also tested a communication campaign on the school ground, as well as point of sale materials at vendor stalls.

The test revealed that selling the ‘Healthy Bundle’ was good for business. As the ratio of healthy to unhealthy offerings increased, so did the purchase of healthy snacks. These early positive signals provided the groundwork for further pilots to develop the relationship between schools and vendors, and thus improve the snacking habits of school children.

A vendor testing new product assortment and simple promotional materials.